One-Hour Workout: Dede Griesbauer’s Open-Water Swim Simulator

This session replicates the sometimes-frantic start to the swim leg of a triathlon.

This week’s one-hour workout comes from former NCAA All American swimmer turned three-time Ironman champion Dede Griesbauer. Check out her article here on the things she thinks triathletes are getting wrong when it comes to open-water swimming – and then head to the pool and hit this workout to help you up your open-water game.

Griesbauer says: “This is a great open-water simulator session that replicates the sometimes-frantic start to the swim leg in a triathlon race. It can be easily modified in distance, number of repetitions and intensity to suit your next race.”

Be sure to build into the warm-up, gradually raising heart rate and effort. Consider the 4 x 100 to be a prep set ahead of the main set. The focus should be on developing feel for the water (with the sculling) while also increasing effort (with the build to fast 50s).

When it comes to the main set, the objective of the 4 x 50 is to replicate the take-out speed of a race start, so you’re training your body to get used to that uncomfortable feeling when the gun goes. Griesbauer says: “The goal is to sprint a bit harder and longer than what’s comfortable, then go into a longer swim where you settle into race pace.”

She adds: “If you want to shorten the session, you can do 4 x 25 instead of 4 x 50 and you can also shorten the uptempo portion to a 200.”

The 300 uptempo race pace should replicate the effort you can sustain for the majority of the swim leg, that is, the pace you can comfortably hold. Learning to settle into this pace is important, especially after hitting the harder, shorter efforts. This is how you train your body to cope with the discomfort of harder swimming. Be sure to take the easy really easy, before repeating the set again. Repeat as desired, ideally two to four times depending on fitness, ability and time.

Open-Water Swim Simulator


400 warm up easy
4 x 100 with 15 seconds rest: 25 kick, 25 scull, 50 build to fast.

Main Set

2-4 sets of:
4 x 50 hard with less than 5 seconds rest
1 x 300 uptempo race pace
1 x 100 easy with full recovery


5-10 minutes easy, relaxed swimming